Sandy (not her real name) was driving along a busy two-lane highway. Her eight-month-old daughter was strapped in her car seat in the passenger seat of her Grand Am. Her two-year-old daughter was strapped in her car seat in the back seat, right behind the driver's seat. Sandy was busy talking on her cell phone. When she was finished with the call, Sandy closed her cell phone and leaned down to place it on the console between the two front seats.
When she looked up again at the road, Sandy discovered that she had run off the right side of the pavement and was headed for a ditch lined with utility poles. She jerked the wheel hard to the left. The Grand Am moved back onto the highway, but it didn't stay in the right lane. It fishtailed as Sandy tried desperately to get the car back in the right lane. She had to do it fast. Headed her way in the other lane was an 18-wheeler.
Sandy tried to beat the truck, but the rear of the Grand Am lingered in the left lane too long. The left rear of the car ran right under the back wheels of the semi trailer. The car bounced off a Sunfire before sliding off the left side of the road. The Grand Am stopped with its nose just off the pavement and the rear of the car in a side ditch. Or rather, what was left of the rear of the car.
Sandy's two-year-old daughter was seated in the spot that went under the wheels of the semi. The girl was killed instantly. Both Sandy and the eight-month-old in the front seat were treated and released from the local hospital. But the two-year-old was gone. Just like that.
I was at the scene of the accident. I wasn't a witness. I got there as the ambulances continue to pull up to the area. The scene was a mess. I was kept back away from Sandy and the Grand Am, although there were pieces of Grand Am all around me. The bumper was on one side of the highway and the fender was on the other. One wheel and a chunk of axle littered the roadway, along with a laundry basket, a couple of nondescript toys and the sheels of a baby stroller.
The driver of the Sunfire told me that he had tried to help Sandy, but she was hysterical immediately after the crash. He knew the child was dead, and wasn't sure what he could do. He had his own children in the car with him. They were on their way to put money down on a trailer so they could move. His kids, 8 and 5, were fairly calm seated in the back seat. They had just stopped a few miles up the road to get each of them something to drink. The kids continued to sip from their bottles.
I watched the ambulance crews as they surrounded the Grand Am. I knew the child was dead as well -- one of the state troopers had told me that much. As I watched, I saw an EMT carry a small bundle wrapped in a blue blanket into the back of the ambulance. I knew what I was seeing. Sandy and the baby were also wheeled to the squad truck. The vehicle didn't move for almost ten minutes before leaving for the hospital.
As I was turning away to leave, I had taken only a few steps when I heard a shriek. I wheeled around and saw a lady who looked to be in her late 50s with a look of abject horror on her face. She was walking quickly toward the wreckage of the Grand Am. Suddenly she cried out, "My daughter!" as she neared the policemen standing near the wrecked car. I couldn't hear what the officers said to her, but almost instantly she hit the ground, her voice coming out as an eerie wail that will haunt me for quite some time. She was on her hands and knees, trying to lovingly caress the blanket which, less than 30 minutes earlier, had been lying across the lap of her granddaughter. I couldn't watch any more and turned to go, breathing yet another prayer for this family.
I have spoken twice with a man in Tennessee. His company owns the semi involved in the accident. He told me he is a former state trooper in that state and has seen his share of tragedy, but in his voice I can hear a note of sorrow that he has not felt before. "My trucks have an almost perfect safety record," he told me. "This kind of thing doesn't happen to us." He is grieving in a way that only he understands.
Please pray for Sandy and her family. I know nothing about her circumstances, aside from knowing that she must be feeling something that I wouldn't wish upon the most evil of people.
In all of this, I am reminded of how temporary this life really is. Sandy's two-year-old girl was alive and vital. Then, just like that, she was gone.
"Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life -- here on earth, and eternal life spent with You."